Utt HC | Private unaided schools cannot ask for tuition fees from children who are unable to access online classes

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Ramesh Ranganathan, CJ and R.C. Khulbe, J., directed slew of directions to be followed in pursuance to the State Government Order passed on 2nd May, 2020 with regard to the collection of tuition fees by private unaided schools.

State Government vide its Order dated 2nd May, 2020 had permitted to private unaided schools to conduct online classes. In terms of the said order, these schools were also prohibited from collecting any fees other than tuition fees.

The said clause of collecting tuition fees was not extended to the private unaided schools who were unable to provide online classes.

Complaint

It has been alleged that parents were being coerced to pay tuition fees. Some of the schools are conducting classes for even Upper Kindergarten students only to collect fees from gullible parents.

Schools had started to send WhatsApp messages and e-mails with regard to payment of tuition fees, though the Government Order required payment of fees to be voluntary and since several of the State’s inhabitants lacked internet facility due to which children could not attend the online classes, still they were being asked to pay tuition fees.

Object of the Government Order dated 2nd May, 2020 is to ease the burden on parents, who do not even have the means to earn their livelihood in this period of crisis, in being required to pay the huge fees which these private institutions charge.

While the difficulties of these institutions, in having to incur expenditure without collecting fees from its students, is understandable, times of crisis like these would require the haves to extend a helping hand to the have-nots.

Court issued following directions for effective implementation of the above-stated Government Order:

  • District Education Officer and Block Development Officer to be appointed in each district to whom complaints can be addressed by parents who are being coerced to pay the tuition fees by private schools.
  • Wide publicity shall be given in the media informing the public at large, in the State, that they can address their grievance in this regard to the Nodal Officers.
  • Nodal Officer to take prompt actions against the complaints.
  • Children, who do not have access to online course, cannot be asked to pay tuition fees.
  • Since payment of tuition fee by students is voluntary, none of the private schools shall send e-mails or WhatsApp messages or any form of communication to parents calling upon them to pay tuition fees.

Court further asked the Secretary, School Education to furnish report on the following:

  • call for information from all the District Education Officers regarding the number of private schools, which offer online courses, and the number of students who have access to such online courses. Information shall be obtained from each of these private schools as to whether tuition fees is being collected even from those students who have no access to the online course offered by the schools. This information shall not only be collected from students of Class 1 to Class 10, but also with regards children who are undergoing their Upper Kindergarten.
  • Information regarding online classes being conducted by private schools for Upper Kindergarten students. Shall consider the wisdom in conducting such online programmes for these children in Upper Kindergarten, examine whether this is just a ruse to collect tuition fee from them, and issue appropriate directions, to all such private schools, in this regard as he considers appropriate.

Matter to be posted on 26-05-2020. [Japinder Singh v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 217, decided on 12-05-2020]

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